Friday, July 8, 2011

Arrogance and Stones

I love the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and dragged before Jesus.  In John 8, we see that the religious leaders hated Jesus for interrupting the status quo.  They were so full of themselves they failed to recognize their own God when he stood right in front of them.  In a foolish effort to entrap Jesus, they decided to test his enforcement of the law.  Somehow they managed to catch a woman in the midst of sexual passion with a man she wasn’t married to.  Nevermind the sting operation, Mosaic Law clearly provided that she be stoned to death for the sin of adultery.  They had complete legal authority to kill her, yet in an act of great spectacle they paraded her in front of Jesus and asked him what they should do. Jesus immediately recognized their devious intent.  These religious fanatics were not zealous about keeping God’s law; rather they were power hungry and arrogant.  So Jesus tells them to go ahead and stone her, “but the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 

This week, our nation watched as a jury acquitted Casey Anthony of the murder of her daughter.  In the court of public opinion, however, she was found guilty a long time ago, and now many are outraged that she was not convicted.  Across the nation voices are erupting with indignation over this perceived injustice.

I have no idea if Ms. Anthony is really guilty or not, but that’s not what concerns me.  As I digest the multitude of news clips and articles about her trial and its subsequent impact, what strikes me most is the arrogance displayed by those who decry her innocence.  Strangers have gone out of their way to make signs and protest outside of the courthouse.  One sign declared, “Casey deserves to burn in hell!”  Well, that may be true, but don’t we all?

Naturally, it should horrify us when a toddler is murdered.  Anytime a person is victimized in any fashion, we should find ourselves incensed.  But I’m reminded in this moment of how unfit I am to cast judgment upon anyone.  I say we take a hard look at ourselves and maybe loosen the grip on our stones. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Being the Traitor and the Betrayed

After years of clinging to the notion of sexual abstinence my resolve began to crumble when I became a soldier.  Socially speaking, the military was similar to my college and work experience; however, it was a culture drastically unique from any I had previously been exposed to.  I found myself in a sexually charged atmosphere, and all too quickly one young lady in particular became the focus of my attention.  After a lifetime of abusive situations, she seemed drawn to me; and I, in turn, felt obligated to rescue her from a vicious cycle of poor relationships.  I became obsessed and my judgment deteriorated as I continually compromised in order to counter her resistance.  Eventually, I caved completely and, consequently, lost her respect.  As a result, our relationship fell apart overnight.

Sometime later, I sought her out, hoping desperately to woo her back.  Put off by my advances, she spitefully confessed to having been with multiple other men during and since our relationship.  Never before and never since have I been so emotionally sucker-punched.  My knees buckled, and I fell face down on the ground, sobbing bitterly.  I was humiliated and crushed by her betrayal. 

My grief would take a while to dissipate, but that night bore a startling revelation.  Through the blinding agony of heartbreak, I was reminded of when Peter denied his association with Jesus on the night before the crucifixion.  In a horrifically insightful moment, I began to comprehend how both Peter AND Jesus must have felt. 

The Bible doesn’t reveal if Jesus had any immediate reaction to Peter’s actions, but we do know that Peter ran off and “wept bitterly.”  Peter hadn’t meant to hurt Jesus, but I imagine the look in his eyes pierced Peter’s heart.  Jesus had predicted Peter’s failure, and it must have been devastating to learn that his Master’s expectations were accurate.  Just like Peter boasted of his loyalty to Jesus, I proudly proclaimed my sexual convictions; and like Peter, I too let pride precede my fall.  I took my eyes off of Christ for a split-second and got burned by my selfish pursuit.  The knowledge that my sin didn’t catch Christ by surprise only added to my humiliation.  I felt utterly foolish for walking into a snare with my eyes wide shut.

In this scenario, however, I was also the person wronged, and I remember vividly wondering if how I felt was anything like how God feels when we wrong Him.  This woman acted selfishly, pursuing satisfaction from others without regard for how her actions would affect me.  We can analyze this all day long, but what she thought and why she made her choices are not important.  The thought to consider is how much we treat God the same way.  How often do we grieve God by our choices?  As I cried that night, I was given a glimpse of how my defiance and unfaithfulness breaks the heart of God.

I am struggling to know how to conclude these thoughts.  I do not claim to fully understand the thoughts and character of God.  I do know, though, the pain of being mistreated; and I know the guilt of having mistreated others.  And I don’t imagine that I am assuming too much if I suggest that we all have felt the same.  I suppose all I am hoping to convey here is that maybe it’s time we remembered the Golden Rule and relearned how to treat EVERYONE as we ourselves would hope to be treated.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunsets at Camp Taji

Approximately twenty miles north of Baghdad lays the town of Taji.  Formerly an outpost for the Iraqi Republican Guard, it was taken over by US forces following the invasion.  In late summer 2006, my brigade was reassigned to Baghdad, and my battalion moved into the “village” on the backside of Camp Taji. 

There were many factors that contributed to the overall anguish of that period.  Whereas in northern Iraq I shared a CHU (containerized housing unit) with only one soldier, I now had a hundred plus roommates in a cavernous warehouse.  With our arrival in the Sunni Triangle, came the extra weight of added armor (side plates), raising the total to thirty-three pounds.  The temperature consistently topped out around 120 degrees.  I was attending memorial services at awfully close intervals.  And nobody could tell us when we would be going home.

I remember my chest physically hurting as I cursed God for relegating me to such a torturous existence.  The truth was I found it impossible to abandon my belief in God, and this infuriated me.  I was so far removed from my last shred of hope that I welcomed death.  I was stuck in hell with nowhere to turn.

As my insanity worsened, I sought reprieve.  At sunset, as often as my schedule allowed, I would stroll beyond the borders of our “village” and claim a spot among the piles of rusty debris and tall grass that lined the road.  With overwhelming numbness and a clear view of the horizon, I would stare into the oncoming sunlight until I became blinded to everything around me.  My eyelids preserved the image burned into my corneas, and for a few seconds I could be anywhere I wanted to be, free of the war and its suffocating constraints.

To this day, when I see the sun setting at the far end of an open field, that old ache returns.  I have been blessed with much healing in the years since then, but some reminders never go away and some wounds always hurt.  Such is life, I suppose.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Death of Usama bin Laden: A Veteran's Response

As a military veteran, and specifically as one who has served in one of the current wars, I have been asked several times over the past few days, how I feel about the death of Usama bin Laden.  Each time I have found myself hesitant to answer; my heart baffled by mixed emotions and my mind perplexed by conflicting thoughts.  Aside from conversations with my wife, I don’t think I’ve given anyone a full, straight answer yet.  I’d like to attempt to do so now.

While many are expressing happiness, the sensation that washes over me is one of relief.  Ten years of tension has at last been eased, and I wearily exhale, “Finally.”  First, because he has been found.  The great mystery of the past decade has been the location of Usama bin Laden.  The world has not known where he was or if he was even alive, and it has been maddening and frightening that a person of such high profile could hide for so long from all the military and intelligence resources of the world.  Never were we worried about what to do if he was found; rather we were solely obsessed by the fact that he could not be found.  Therefore, it inspires a sense of accomplishment that this case has been closed.  Once again there is a feeling that the United States military can accomplish anything; and that is crucially uplifting in an age of two decade-long wars.  The most elusive fugitive in recent history has been found, and it just feels good to have our confidence restored.

Secondly, I feel relieved that the bin Laden story is over.  Many will debate the pros and cons of killing verses capture.  In my mind it is too late for that, and I do not have the stamina to participate in such a debate.  For too long this man has consumed a nation’s nightmares, and I am simply relieved that we do not have to think about him anymore.  He is dead, and although another will rise to take his place, bin Laden’s reign is over.  We are now free to move on.

Still, my reaction to bin Laden’s death is far more complex than solely a feeling of relief.  The sight of Americans rejoicing in the streets resonates strongly with me.  The news elicits a surge of excitement over a mission accomplished.  I realize that the War on Terror has not been won, but does that mean that each inch of ground gained is worthless until the whole is achieved?  Terrorism will always exist, so will we not celebrate when Al Qaeda is finally destroyed?  The finding and killing of Usama bin Laden is but one aspect of a larger war, yet it is a victory nonetheless and should be appreciated as such.  I was on active duty when military forces captured Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq), both elusive targets, and although I was not part of those missions, I shared in the excitement of a mission accomplished.  Those events inspired the perception that we were winning, and that was a critical boost to morale at a time when even I was beginning to question the worthiness of the cause.

As for his demise, I’m extremely satisfied that bin Laden was shot and not bombed.  Whoever pulled that trigger inadvertently represented the entire US military and a large percentage of the nation.  It is so gratifying to know that the man who built a terrorist network known for its suicide bombs and views on martyrdom died unarmed at the hands of a member of the United States military.  It was personal, and it afforded him a chance to be scared, to know what was coming.  I understand that perhaps his death was not as brutal as some would have liked, and I might even be inclined to agree.  However, I am content that his death was no more merciful than it was.

Usama bin Laden will be remembered in the history books (the Western ones, at least) as one of the most notorious villains of the modern era.  He was responsible for one of the most traumatic events in our nation’s history.  He successfully placed Muslim extremism center stage and forever altered the way we attend to national security.  For his crimes, I wish he could die a thousand times.  I wish he had been strung up as the nation’s piñata – dangling in place for every grieving, angry soul to unleash his or her fury.

Call it brainwashing or call it clarity, but sixteen months at war molded that perspective.  It was agonizing fighting a faceless enemy, and more often than not, we were denied the therapy of actually engaging our foe.  Rather, we were engaged in a deadly game of tag, cautiously awaiting the next buried bomb to detonate.  As time passed, my rage increased.  The mission began to feel like a vicious cycle - we were there because of the violence, yet the violence persisted only because we were there.  Naturally, we felt violated and toyed with.  Consequently, I quit caring about intelligence value and humanitarian issues, and I subscribed wholeheartedly to the belief that the only solution was to just “kill them all!”  In the exhaustion and frustration of war this was the mentality that surfaced as the most sensible; and although I have since recovered a more civilized attitude, the ghost of war still whispers convincingly in my ear.

In a world of 24-hour news and social networks, everyone has a voice, and those voices are understandably tempered by the context of personal experience.  So I offer these thoughts as merely my point of view – not politically correct or spiritually sound – just my honest reaction.

Monday, April 25, 2011

North Broad Trestle

Nestled amongst the forested hills of north Georgia rests a train bridge known as the North Broad Trestle.  Originally dubbed the Wells Viaduct, its construction was completed in 1919, and it remains to this day the highest bridge on the Norfolk Southern Railroad, connecting Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.  Although it has been over a decade since my last visit, the area was once a frequent retreat.  As a young, troubled college student, I often wandered out the backside of the Toccoa Falls campus and deep into the Chattahoochee woods.  I would follow footpaths out to the ATV trail and then wander aimlessly.  Beyond the beaten path was a world void of humanity, peaceful and uncomplicated.  Up on a hillside, overlooking the trestle, the view was panoramic, and only a landscape so large seemed suitable as a focus point for my open-eyed prayers to a faceless God.

Most of my excursions were companionless, although I occasionally convinced a friend or two to tag along.  On one such jaunt, I managed to corral four of my dorm mates into following me.  Our first adventure of the day began by the riverbank beneath the towering trestle.  Feeling inspired, we hustled our way up the embankment to where the track once again had dirt beneath it.  Even before we had all conquered the “summit”, Jon began making his way out onto the bridge.  The usual masculine banter ensued, as we accused him of being insane and he dared us to join him.  My memory probably places him farther out than he really was, but Jon seemed uncomfortably far away as the train suddenly thundered around the corner, barreling onto the far side of the bridge.  Bodies flew through the air, as Jon, Craig, Howey and I dove for safety; Lee was still clawing his way up the hill, barely five feet beneath the tracks, as the train roared overhead.  It was a classic scene of comedic stupidity.

That freshman year was my only year at Toccoa Falls as a student.  I would return only on occasion to visit friends and seek out my old stoop.  After a year or so I returned with some new friends, eager for a good hike.  Regret over my failure to cross taunted me back to the edge, where the ground beneath the tracks began to fall away.  Ignoring the possibility of a train, Brad and I stepped out onto the track.  What I had not anticipated, however, was my reaction to the staggering height.  The bridge spanned 1500 feet and towered approximately 200 feet at its highest point, and there was no barrier of any sort between the edge and us.  The space between each railroad tie was open air, so as I looked down for each foot placement, I could see straight through to the ground far below.  About a quarter of the way across, my enthusiasm gave way to intense fear.  I was paralyzed.  As absolute terror consumed me I became so shaky that each little movement scared me further.  I could not even turn my head to glance back.

So often the trials of living can be just as paralyzing.  Real life trestles come in the form of divorce or depression or job loss.  Sometimes we suffer from a trauma in our past or an uncertain future.  Painful, frustrating and terrifying circumstances become a reality for all of us at some point or another.  We grieve because we cannot turn back and undo the events that landed us in our mess, and we panic for fear that any action will only make things worse.  The great tragedy, however, is that it is truly our own fear and lack of perspective that bring about our demise.  We blame the circumstances, of course, but it’s really our own lack of resolve to rise above that restricts us. 

If Brad was ever scared he never let on, and he never harassed me for being scared.  Rather, he confidently grabbed my hand and coaxed me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  My fear did not instantly dissipate, but Brad’s calm strength gave me the motivation to continue.  Once we reached the halfway point, I gained confidence with each step.  I realized that we were moving closer and closer to safety and to achieving our goal.  By the time we stepped back onto solid ground, my fear was barely a memory.

In perhaps his most famous psalm, David wrote, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” (Psalm 23:4/NLT)  His prayerful confession was essentially declaring, “I will not be afraid, because you, God, are bigger than what I am up against, and you will never abandon me.”  I think that this is the perspective we are often lacking.  Does that make the pain stop?  No.  Does that make the healing process any less dreadful?  No.  What it does, though, is offer hope . . . hope that there will be an end to suffering; hope that the pain can refine us; and hope that while we were never meant to go through life alone, we do not have to.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Remembering Kenny

In the military, a taboo topic is rare.  Given enough time, a conversation will touch on nearly every subject under the sun.  Where were you when 9/11 happened?  What are you gonna do after the army?  How old were you when you lost your virginity?  Someone always extends the customary offer to “spoon” and someone else always chimes in with the latest crude joke.  And when the setting is just right, soldiers contemplate death, the after-life, and whom they’d like to sleep with before that happens.

It was a winter evening in New Mexico when Kenny and I finally arrived at that point of religious discussion.  Huddled inside our vehicle, choking back some horrible variation of an MRE, we discussed what we thought it took to get to heaven and what merited a straight ticket to hell.  We got through it rather quickly and moved on without agreeing on any mutual conclusions.  It was just another conversation in a long series of attempts at staving off the boredom.

Fast forward to Iraq, one year later.  A group of close buddies were preparing to relocate to another sector of the war.  I bumped into Kenny as he was loading up.  We shook hands, and I wished him luck.  He made me promise to grab a beer with him when we made it back stateside.

I was attending a briefing when news of the attack was announced, and my heart stopped when casualties were reported.  It took me a few days to get an accurate report.  But when the facts were straight and the names known, my friend Kenny was already stateside, draped in an American flag.

Our journey together is almost a cliché.  We were promoted side-by-side.  We once discussed where we thought we’d go when we died.  And we agreed to meet up for a drink after the war.  Of the stories I recall about him, it’s these last two memories that haunt me every April 11th.  It’s been five years now, and I still pray that my friend Kenny got it right and that I’ll see him on the other side.  Until then, he owes me a drink.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

November 30, 2006

I think I cried.  It isn’t all that clear anymore.  All I remember for sure is that the quiet was stifling and the solitude burdensome.  Alone in a sterile barracks room, I grieved for the last sixteen months of my life.  Iraq was now decidedly in my past, but a quick survey of my surroundings and a sigh of relief accomplished far less than I had anticipated.  The weight of war was still crushing - inescapable and haunting.

I sat on the cold, hard linoleum, staring.  Waiting.  Waiting for something to feel right, to feel better.  I whispered a prayer of thanks; but even that rang hollow.  I had reached a stalemate with God months earlier.

And did I mention how quiet it was?  There was no sudden burst of gunfire.  No car bombs were detonating in the distance, followed by the telltale clang of falling debris.  Not even a solitary mortar round could be heard splitting the night.  There were no Blackhawks hovering above, no footsteps crunching gravel outside, and no generators buzzing beyond the concrete barrier.  No, rather it was eerily still; the fresh snow outside the window seemingly absorbing every last sound from the night.

This was my welcome home party.  It was the most isolated I think I’ve ever felt.  Yet anything different would have been worse.  I needed that solitude to appreciate the gravity of what I’d just endured, and to grieve . . . for friends, for my sanity, and for the last shred of faith I had - in God and in the world.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Collateral Damage

From the moment we moved into our house, my wife and I found ourselves thrust into the midst of territorial conflict.  Not with each other, and, no, not with our neighbors.  Our conflict has been with a squatter.  The extra body might have gone unnoticed but for the white streaks of telltale evidence decorating our front porch, and since our little problem can’t seem to go without leaving her mark, we quickly grew resentful of her presence.  When she disappeared this past winter, I gave the porch a good scrub down and hoped she would not return.  She did.

With the arrival of spring, our bird returned with a new behavior – nesting.  When her usual stoop proved unfit, our aviary pest set her sights on a decorative wreath hanging in the front window.   We were dismayed to observe the daily display of nesting materials that hadn’t made the cut scattered all over our porch.  Cleaning up after our squatter’s latest mess became a fresh source of resentment.

My wife and I regularly discussed knocking the nest down, however, our procrastination inadvertently provided the mother-to-be enough time to put some finishing touches on her masterpiece.  Finally, believing we had to knock it down before she laid eggs, we decided we couldn’t wait any longer.  In just a few seconds, we reclaimed our porch and destroyed the evidence.

As we gloated about our victory, an unexpected thing happened.  The mother-to-be returned, darting back and forth in distress.  Ready to lay her egg at any moment, she had been heartlessly evicted.  We were instantly hit with a wave of remorse.  We sheepishly asked each other how we could have been so thoughtless.  What had we done?  Why had it seemed so urgent? 

Some might argue that we were justified in our actions.  After all, it is our house and we have the right to be pest free.  It’s just a bird, right?  That very well may be true, but I cannot resist the urge to ponder the bigger picture.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3,4/NIV)  Continuing on, he wrote, “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.  He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status…” (Philippians 2:5,6/The Message). 

Paul may not have had pesky birds in mind when he wrote this; but I wonder, how often are we so consumed by our own agenda that we show reckless disregard for the people around us?  How often are we guilty of viewing others as speed bumps and eyesores on our journey to happiness and success?  Perhaps it would do us all some good to slow down for a minute and evaluate the collateral damage we’ve caused.  Even better, it would do us good to realize we’re not the big a deal we think we are.  After all, aren’t we all just messy birds in the eyes of someone else?  And aren’t we supposed to treat others the way we’d like to be treated?

It’s something to think about anyway.  For now, I think I’ll go put up a birdhouse.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Date Night

A few nights ago, my wife and I had the privilege of eating dinner out while a friend kindly watched our infant son.  Although this was not our first time leaving him with someone else, it was our first time doing so for the purpose of a night out.  We had been cautioned by numerous experts not to neglect ourselves amidst the joyous obsession of caring for a new baby; so with friends and family lining up to babysit, we decided it was time to relax and reconnect. 

Upon leaving the house, however, we instantly settled into an awkward silence.  Despite our best efforts, we struggled to maintain any conversation for the entire drive to the restaurant.  Once we were settled in our booth, silence continued its stifling reign.  Then, about halfway through the meal, we suddenly came alive, drinking one another in and conversing intimately.  We simply needed the time and space to get reacquainted and rediscover the joy of being in one another’s presence.

As resilient as we are, humans are fragile beings, and if I may suggest so, marriage is even more vulnerable.  Marriage requires proactive maintenance if its optimum potential is to be achieved.  In an effort to keep our relationship from deteriorating, my wife and I have strived to maintain a routine date night.  This habit always appealed to our common sense, yet we had no inkling of its vital importance prior to becoming parents. 

Dinner out, without friends or agenda, was suddenly so foreign, even though we had done it a hundred times before.  It was truly startling how quickly we forgot how to enjoy each other as a couple.  Thankfully, we learned this lesson early.  After all, it is no secret that marital relationships become frighteningly brittle when neglected.  The subtle threat is that our attention is often courted by equally noble causes.  Therefore, it would behoove spouses everywhere to establish their priorities early and remain alert and guarded against the forces that tempt.  As for my wife and I, we will continue to make date night a priority, warding off the distractions of life that would make us strangers; for when the kids are grown and gone, we desperately hope to still be best friends and lovers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lacking Inspiration

Well, it’s Friday, and I am feeling considerably uninspired today.  It’s a day of earthquakes, tsunamis and historic devastation, and I’m still lacking the motivation to write a simple blog.  Pathetic, right?  I suppose we all feel this way at one time or another.  On any given day, we face assignments or responsibilities that reveal themselves to be mismatched with our motivation.  The task that lies before us fails to stimulate the drive necessary to accomplish it, and we view this as excuse enough to push the burden aside.  The reality of being a responsible adult, however, is that we don’t get to play hooky from our responsibilities.  This principle certainly holds true in the spiritual arena.  The Apostle Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:14, 15 – NLT).  In essence, he was saying, “Because you know better, be better.”  A popular commercial slogan boils it down to a single brutal charge - Just Do It!  The message is clear: push through; get the job done; no excuses.  So here I am, writing in spite of myself, because it’s what I’m supposed to do.  And I can’t help but wonder how different the world would be if we all did more of what we were supposed to do and not quite so much of what we felt like doing.  It’s something to think about.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Like Palo Verdes

As I am staring out at the desert this morning, a strong wind is cleansing the Valley of the Sun.  The tumbleweeds are wandering aimlessly, the Palo Verde trees dance as they strain the air that rushes through their reach, and I’m reminded of a verse I’ve always found hauntingly beautiful.  John 3:8 (NIV) says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 

Moving mysteriously across the earth, wind is a powerful, invisible force, capable of both benefit and destruction.  We struggle to comprehend or predict it, yet history testifies to its characteristics and capabilities.  Wind shapes the rocky crags of majestic mountains and it brushes the downy tuft of an infant’s hair.  It enrages the calm surface of vast oceans and it bounces brittle leaves carelessly across the ground.  It is the embodiment of gentility and rage.

And if I understand the Apostle John, the Holy Spirit moves us Christ-followers in much the same way.  It molds and crushes; it mystifies and inspires.  There is unpredictability and intrigue about a life controlled by the Spirit of God.  Consistent with the blustery metaphor, the Spirit-moved believer shows no prejudice, affecting every life in his or her path.  And joy is found simply in the being what one was created to be.

Lately, I’m not so sure my dance has arrested the curiosity of many by-standers, for I have nurtured a tendency to remain unresponsive to the Spirit within.  So, if only for myself, there remains a lesson to be learned from the wind in the trees.  I could stand to be a bit more like the Palo Verdes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Father's Worry

My son is nearly seven weeks old, and during his moments of quiet slumber, my eyes pour over every square inch of his tiny frame.  He has soft skin, a strong grip and a beautiful smile.  He is chubby in all the right places, and his eyes are innocent and curious. 

He does not have any judgment on his face.  His mind has not known evil, and his body does not bear any scars.  Life has yet to wound him, and this terrifies me.  I dread the idea that he won’t always be unscathed.  The more this thought festers, the more I panic.  What can I do to protect him?  How do I shelter him from the outside world?  How do I restrain him from doing all the questionable things I did?

Then I think of all the things I’m going to have to teach him.  Things like how to tie his shoes and ride a bike.  Someday I’ll have to talk to him about sex and drugs and alcohol.  He’ll need to know how to treat a woman and how to respect his elders.  And sooner or later, he’ll need to know how to hold his head up after his first taste of defeat.

All these thoughts hit me at once as I watch my boy dream.  Then I think of God’s Word, and a couple passages come to mind.  Referring to his commands, God tells parents to “repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, NLT)  Also, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, NLT)

All God requires of us, as parents, is to pass on the principles he has established.  Anything more reeks of pure desperation.  One day I will have to let my boy walk on his own, and he will probably fall a few times.  Despite my best efforts, he will break, bruise and bleed like every little boy before him.  However, I’m reminded that even Jesus has scars; and if God the Father hadn’t allowed his Son to suffer, then humanity would never have known things like forgiveness and redemption. 

So for now I will hold my son as he sleeps.  I will tell him that I love him and will always be there for him.  And I will pray that the wounds he suffers in life will drive him straight into the arms of his Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Being Wrong

I really don’t like to be wrong.  A roommate and I once bet an entire month’s rent that the earth was so many miles away from the sun.  Now, I didn’t have a job at the time, but I was just that confident that I was right.  To paint the scene in a worse light, the apartment was my first, and I didn’t yet grasp the concept of living within my means.  So when I say we bet the entire month’s rent, I mean it was really dumb to agree to such high stakes.  In my defense, however, my roommate failed to comprehend the years I had gone to sleep fanatically memorizing the facts on a poster of the solar system that adorned my bedroom wall.  I was certain this qualified me as an expert; I knew what I was talking about.  Unfortunately, I also underestimated my opponent and his uncanny ability to recall utterly useless information.  My rent doubled that month.

I share that story because last night I was wrong again.  Not so much about a particular bit of trivia, but rather in my actions.  And my wife called me on it.  It didn’t sting so much because she was right but because I was wrong.  Most people would agree that it is never exactly pleasant to be wrong about anything, but I strongly believe that owning up to a bad choice is a vital characteristic.  Undoubtedly, it’s one of the strengths of our marriage.  Because I love my wife (and I want her to still love me in thirty years), I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong.  I’m willing to accept when I do something that she hates.  And I’m willing to change my behavior, even when I don’t understand exactly why she hates it.  I’m willing to do this because our marriage is worth a lot more than a month’s rent.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Blogger's Prayer

Lord, may the words I write always be the best I have to offer. May Truth be infused into my writing, and may you always be honored by my efforts. Help me to write honestly and selflessly. And make me a better writer with each passing day. I offer this blog as an instrument for accomplishing your will. May it far exceed all human expectations, both by its content and by its influence. Amen.